Estelle and Joshua beginning their journey as junior bracers

The ever lauded Trails in the games, an RPG series I’ve seen praised constantly wherever it appeared especially over at Kotaku. Though I actually bought the game quite a while back, I’ve always felt it a bit daunting to get into. All the praise heaped on to it served to heighten my expectations which made me feel like actually playing the game wouldn’t live up to those heights. But, I finally decided to take the plunge, nearly 8 years after the game made its way out of Japan, and I am super happy to report that my worries were for nought as Trails in the Sky FC easily scaled those heights and has gone on to become one of the best games I’ve ever played.

So, what makes Trails in the Sky FC so good? Well, in short, everything. No, this is not a hyperbole, literally every aspect of Sky is sublimely done. Its worst point could potentially be the outdated visuals but even that is still well crafted and plenty forgivable considering the game originally launched in 2004.

Agate living up to his design

The game’s tale follows Estelle bright and her step-brother, Joshua, as they set on a journey to become Senior Bracers by travelling across the country of Liberl and gaining a recommendation at each branch of the Bracer Guild. On the way, they discover more sinister machinations transpiring behind the scenes that could have drastic ramifications on the future of the country.

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That’s the general plotline of FC, it sounds pretty standard as far as JRPGs go and for the most part, it is, however, its brilliance lies not in the conceptual but in the execution. The main point towards this is the game’s absolutely wonderful writing and localization. There’s a ton of conversations between a hefty amount of characters pertaining to plot, character development and general fluff, yet neither of these instances was ever a bore. Even when all I did for almost an hour was just press ‘A’ to forward text, I was truly enjoying every moment. Every character from the heroes to the antagonists are wonderfully constructed and their plights and struggles easily pulled me in. It’s rare for me to find a game with so many characters that are all almost equally likeable (in different respects) though if I had to edge a couple above the others, Olivier and Kloe would take the top spots. Their relationships with each other are beautifully illustrated especially Estelle and Joshua’s budding romance.

A student of the Royal Academy and master of best bird, Sieg

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Of course, this is still a game and a fantastic cast and story will only get you so far (at least for me). Fortunately, Trails FC also manages to score high marks in regards to combat. I’m not going to get to the nitty-gritty of it but at the surface level, it’s a turn-based system where fights play out on a grid-based field. Every character can make use of two types of special systems, Arts and Crafts. Crafts are inherent to the character and utilize a CP gauge that builds only during battle. Arts are essentially this game’s magic system and highly customizable. They are granted based on combinations of element stones equipped by a character and as such common to all characters. The intertwining of both systems plus the number of characters allows for a great variety in terms of builds and battle options.

Another neat aspect of the game is that there are only two constant characters throughout the story (Estelle and Joshua) and the rest are cycled in and out every chapter thus forcing the player to properly get to know and utilize the entire cast rather than rely on the beginning members as in common in a lot of other titles in the genre.

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Estelle leaves home

And with that, I come to a close. Trails in the Sky FC is an incredibly wonderful game and one I urge everyone to give a shot, fan of the genre or not. I can’t guarantee it will fit your taste but if it does, I know you’ll absolutely love. Also, just to note, FC stands for “First Chapter” and is one part of a greater whole. Thus it finishes on a cliffhanger which is both satisfying and a thoroughly compelling reason to play the next title, Trails in the Sky SC which I will, hopefully, write about soon.